A discharge petition launched Wednesday by House Democrats to demand a vote on comprehensive immigration reform is certain to fail, but it returned the issue to the spotlight ahead of the November elections.
Arguing that the votes to overhaul the broken system are there, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelsoi, D-Calif., is using the procedural tactic to gain the support of lawmakers to force House Speaker John Boehner’s hand on a floor vote.
Democrats have called for a vote on H.R. 15 for months, but even before it was first introduced, the House GOP leadership said it was dead on arrival. That’s because the bipartisan House bill is similar to one passed by the Senate last June, which included an earned pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.
Pelosi said she will sign the petition.
â€” Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) March 26, 2014
However, Pelosi has expressed her doubts about the chances of success.
“We’ll never get to 218 on the discharge petition,” Pelosi told Sirius XM Radio’s Julie Mason. “Because the Republicans generally won’t sign, but the fact that it is there and the outside mobilization is saying all we want is a vote.”
Despite the doomed reality of the procedure, immigration reform advocates and lawmakers say the pressure is on the Republicans. Earlier this year, House GOP leadership announced a set of principles they intended to use to end gridlock on the issue, only to retract them less than a week later. They cited a trust deficit between the White House and Republican House members as reasons for the continued delay.
But for those on the political right who publicly voiced support for immigration, supporters say this is their time to prove their commitment.
“This is their chance to play a role in actually making that happen,” said Rocio Saenz, executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union. “This vote will also tell us exactly what side of the issue each member is on. Are they with the extremists in their caucus who want to block immigration reform at all costs, or are they with the millions of families who are suffering under our broken system?”
Even faith-based community organizations are waiting to see where Republicans stand.
“If they block reform yet again, the fight is not over,” said Eddie Carmona, campaign manager for PICO National Network’s Campaign for Citizenship. “The longer House Republicans refuse to act, the harder we will fight to ensure the administration will. We will not stand for excuses coming from the Capitol, nor from the White House.”
Lawmakers who stand with the activists say that Republicans’ handling of immigration reform in the next few months will determine the political landscape for decades. Latinos represent the fastest growing voting bloc in the nation. Researchers have found that when Hispanics go to the polls, they do so out of a sense of community and to advance the group’s cause.
“[Republicans] can sign their names to put their country before their party, put their constituents before their ideologues, and pledge to work with the Democrats to do what Republican and Democratic voters want them to do,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. “The question is whether Republicans allow the majority to rule or continue to hide behind the ‘majority of the majority’ straightjacket they have put themselves in.
“How Republican Leadership handles the immigration issue for the next several months will go a long way towards determining national politics for the next several decades,” he added. “Republicans can choose to be a nationally competitive party that supports legal immigration or a regional minority party that can only muster support for deportation.”